How to Start Your Own eCommerce Business

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Although many people dream about being their own boss and starting their own business, very few ever take the plunge. This can be due to many reasons, including fear of failure or not knowing what type of business to start.

An eCommerce business is one of the easiest business models to start, whether it is as just a paying hobby or with the mind to replace an income and make a true career of it. In fact, by taking a step-by-step plan, you could turn this dream into your reality.

First things first

If you are going to work from home, then you need to make sure that you are giving yourself the best start that you possibly can. You can do this by taking some care and time to think over what you will need.

Set up office

You will need to set up your new business headquarters. Although you could set up shop (literally) on your kitchen table, it is not an advisable thing to do.

Find right location

The location you choose will be better for your concentration levels if it is not in a busy part of the house or in a thoroughfare. A spare bedroom, converted garage, or even basement could be ideal. If these are not viable options for you, then maybe investing in a garden office or summer room may be your answer.

Ensure you have enough room

Wherever you decide to set up your new office, you should make sure that you have plenty of room to work and move around. There should be ample room for a desk and comfortable office chair as well as room to house other technology that you will probably need.

Check light, ventilation, and warmth levels

Your office space should have the right fundaments in order to provide a comfortable working environment. The correct level of lighting to prevent eye strain from looking at monitors, ventilation to provide fresh air, and obviously a form of heating (or even cooling for hot summer days).

Dedicated areas and tech that you may need

Within your office area, you are going to need to designate working areas. These areas should include your general working area, mainly for your computer or laptop and business phone. A smartphone is ideal for this as you will not only be able to list your items on the internet using it, but you will also be able to carry it with you wherever you go, so you will always be able to answer customer questions or deal with other business communications.

You will also require storage areas for stock waiting to be sold as well as sold stock waiting for payment and you will need an area dedicated to packaging your products for delivery. You should also set aside room for your stock coming from your supplier can be stored while waiting to be put up for sale.

Packing areas

It is highly likely that you will need to have a packing bench which will provide you with enough space to pack all of your sold items ready for shipping. To keep this area as condensed as possible you need to make sure that all of the packing materials that you will need are close to hand either in drawers or on shelves located either underneath or above this bench.

This area should be equipped with your printer for shipping labels and packing slips which will be required with each order that you ship. You should also invest in a packing tape dispenser, good quality tape, a tape measure, and a set of scales for weighing your parcels once they have been packed for shipping costs.

Photos and storage

Also, You will need to place your photo booth or desktop photography studio somewhere where the light is good. This is where you will be taking photos of your stock. The background to this area will need to be a single color to make your merchandise stand out and you may need additional props to achieve the best photo shot of your product.

So, an area with storage beneath would be ideal. Of course, if you are going to be selling larger items, you may have to set up your photo studio or booth elsewhere in your house or garden for a more temporary affair.

Clearly, you will also need a camera; however, a smartphone with a camera will take extremely good photos and will be easier to upload to your selling sight than a traditional standalone camera – just keep in mind a ‘real’ camera will always produce better quality images.

Carry out product research

You may already have an idea for your product range, but before you rush out and purchase stock, you should carry out the following checks:

  • Research what sells on various platforms
  • By checking out what items sell on various platforms, you can give yourself a head start. This can save you time, effort, and expense in trial-and-error methods and could lead you straight to a high-yielding, fast-selling product.
  • On some platforms, for instance, you will be able to see what items are in demand and what the other business owners are pricing them at. Most importantly, you will be able to see if they are selling and how much the business owners are actually getting for them.
  • Selling platforms such as eBay, for instance, have an area called the advanced search (located by the main product search bar). In this area, you can enter the product name and select the box(es) that display either completed listings or sold listings.
  • The completed listing option will show you all the listings for that specified product that has finished. Those highlighted in green have been sold and those highlighted in red have not. You should be interested in the items that have a high selling possibility (a lot more green than red on the completed listing search) and generally meet the full asking price.
  • By opting to be shown sold listings only, you will be able to work out how much these items have sold for – if they have not met their asking price and the seller has accepted a lower offer, there will be a cross put through the asking price.
  • On platforms such as Amazon and Esty, you do not have to use this technique, as the number of items sold is typically shown on the listing, and you can look at the reviews of the product to see what people think of it, and you can also get some ideas here on what you may like to improve should you want to sell that item yourself.

Sourcing stock

Once you have an idea of the stock that will sell for its asking price and that is in high demand, you can go looking for how you could source that stock in order to get yourself embedded in that market.

Level of availability

Of course, it is no good if you find that the product that you want to sell is constantly out of stock at the suppliers. Although this may drive the price up for your customers – having sales few and far between (unless you are selling really big-ticket items) is no good for your business. You will no doubt find that when the stock does come in, sellers are also going to be at the end of inflated prices from the suppliers.

The price you pay and working out profit margins

You need to understand that the selling price and your profit margin are two very drastically different figures. Your selling fees should cover the cost of purchasing the item from your supplier and shipping it to you.

It should also cover any selling fees that you have for that item and if you include free postage and packing, any postal costs and your packing costs. After all of these figures are taken away from your selling price, you will be left with your profit margin.

Paying additional shipping costs or Taxes

However, in saying this, there are additional costs that may also occur, and these need to be removed from your profit figures as well. These are any additional shipping costs, which could be brought on by your supplier not paying enough postage at their end to cover the shipping costs or Import Taxes that could be due on bringing new products into the country (if your supplier is in another country).

Decide which platform to sell on

Once you have your stock in your hands, you will be eager to start selling and the easiest way to start is to pick a sales platform and get a seller’s account. There is a varied range of these platforms to choose from, all with their dedicated customers and followers. You do not have to limit yourself to just one of these selling platforms. But it is important to take it slow at first and get to grips with selling on one before introducing any others into your business. The type of product you are selling might do better on some platforms over others – it’s important to go to the platform which has your target audience.

eBay, Amazon & Etsy are the obvious places to start as you might already be familiar with these platforms, and they have millions of people visiting the site every day, so you have no worries about there being a potential audience for your items.

There are also social media marketplaces. These are a little different from the others as you will probably be looking at selling smaller volumes of products and are unlikely to get repeat customers unless you take further promotional steps.

Selling on other companies’ platforms is good for a start, but it is worth remembering that if any of those platforms take a dislike to you or what you are selling, it is your entire business gone overnight. So, as soon as you can, it is advisable to get your own website up and running.

Benefits of having your own website

Having total control of your business is not the only benefit of having a website. Using your website to promote and sell your products alongside other selling platforms can increase the connection and engagement that you have with all of your customers, both current and potential.

Gives your business legitimacy

Having your own website that potential customers can find on search engines such as Google outside of your selling platforms gives your business legitimacy. This will therefore build a platform of trust for your customers.

Provides more detailed information

It provides you with an area where you will really be able to showcase your products and the benefits that they can provide. As well as give an insight into your business, tell your story, and add a company mission to, again, build more customer trust.

Offers you a route to capture important information

Offers you the important ability to capture your customer’s information and data so that you can re-market to them at a later date. As well as send them regular updates or offers should they sign up to receive this information.

Website design

When it comes to website design, none will know it better than a website designer. Although you can design your website yourself, it is not worth your time or expense. This is because your website will make that all-important first impression. If you choose to design it yourself, chances are it will not look as good as it could, nor will its speed or function be that great. Making those seconds count and stopping your website’s visitors from clicking away can be the difference in making a sale, getting a lifelong customer, or just adding to your bounce rate.

A qualified and experienced web designer will make your website bespoke and functional; it will have a desirable loading speed and will be cell phone friendly as well as easy to navigate and user friendly. All these factors will project your business’s image as a professional one – however, doing this can be very expensive.

Many eCommerce businesses use Shopify

For this reason, you might go looking for other solutions – and like so many other eCommerce business owners, you could opt to use Shopify.

What is Shopify?

Shopify is a selling platform that offers a standalone style of store. This means that you are not attached to the previously mentioned platforms, such as eBay or Amazon, and there are bonuses to this. You will be able to sell exactly what you want without any restrictions that may be put upon you by these giants. Your store will be able to grow exponentially and your brand with it.

What does Shopify provide?

In addition to this, Shopify also helps your business by keeping track of abandoned shopping carts in an effort of closing the sale. It will email those who get the majority of the way through a purchase to prompt them to come back and finish the task. Although this doesn’t work all of the time, the times it does can make all the difference to your sales figures.

How to get traffic to your Shopify store

However, the downside to Shopify is that, unlike eBay or Amazon, you will have to generate your own traffic to your website. For those that are not sure how to go about this or even where to look for help, it can be a stumbling block. However, SEO agencies such as clickintelligence.co.uk understand the need that Shopify users have and now offer their services to bridge this gap.

SEO practices are very important for all businesses that want their websites to have high visibility on the internet. Of course, it is not just about driving any old traffic to your website. It is, however, about driving good-quality traffic to the right destination. Good quality traffic will result in more sales and interest in your products, and an experienced SEO agency will be able to do that for you.

Business expansion and infrastructure

Of course, as time goes on and you get more experienced and knowledgeable, it is likely that your eCommerce business will start to expand and that you will require additional infrastructure in place.

Renting additional storage space

Outgrowing your basic level of storage is well-known among eCommerce sellers, and you have a few different options available to you other than filling up your home and driving your loved ones crazy.

Storage units

Storage units can be a cheap option to rent as they come in various sizes, so you can scale as you need to and as your stock gradually grows. However, you will have to remember that these costs will eat into your profit margins every month.

You can opt to rent from a traditional storage unit business. They will have the storage unit kept on their site, and you will have to travel to their location in order to gain access to your property. It is imperative that you pay attention to their small print as some of these storage businesses will limit your visiting times or days. This could put your business at risk, especially if you are looking to have a quick turnaround for your customer’s shipments. Other storage units, however, will happily let you have free rein over when you visit your storage unit and will not limit the number of times that you are on their site.

An alternative to this is to rent a storage unit to keep on your property until you no longer require it. This may work out a little more expensive, but it will save you time and fuel traveling backward and forward to a storage site.

Warehouse facility

The next step up, of course, from this is to rent a warehouse facility. This is indeed going to be expensive, and you are probably going to need to hire warehouse employees to deal with your stock as well as your goods-in, goods-out, and a logistics department. They are also going to require tools and warehouse equipment, and comprehensive training in order to complete their daily tasks to a required standard. However, you can start by renting a space in a warehouse facility, where all of this is done for you, and you just pay for the space you use.

Amazon FBA

Alternatively, you could take advantage of Amazon’s FBA services. This is where you send your goods to Amazon for them to store and then ship on your behalf as and when your products sell. Of course, unlike having your own warehouse or even using a storage container, you will have little power over how your products are stored and treated or, for that matter, how they are despatched from Amazon.

Buying from wholesalers or shipping direct from manufacturers

As you will be purchasing more stock, you will have to weigh up the values of buying directly from wholesalers or approaching the manufacturers and purchasing directly from them. Wholesalers generally deal with smaller orders this is because they buy in bulk and sell in small quantities at a marked-up price.

Buying much larger quantities from wholesalers will not provide you with any additional savings on your purchases. However, purchasing straight from the manufacturers will. Manufacturers are not interested in supplying small orders, however, and it is likely that you will be looking to purchase pallet loads or container loads of products rather than a small sample of them.

White label goods

If you are looking to build your brand, you have another opportunity to source goods with a limited amount of effort on your behalf. White label goods are made by a manufacturer, and they then add your brand label on them.

These goods will not be exclusive to your business, but your brand label will. You have the option of putting your own label on the goods themselves or having the manufacturing company do it for you. You also have the option of having your products then shipped to you so that you can distribute them to your customers, or have the manufacturing company ship the products straight to your customers when you receive orders.

Finding courier companies and shipping internationally

With the sheer number of shipments that you will be making at this stage, it is unlikely that you will still be using your local postal service. Having your own business fleet of vehicles to perform delivery duties is best left to professional logistics companies. However, this doesn’t mean to say that you cannot take advantage of the services that they are offering.

At first, you may want to take advantage of local load boards that are hosted on shipping brokers’ websites. Once you are established and your shipping volume has grown, you should settle on a couple of courier companies to take care of your shipments for you. These companies should be reliable and responsible when handling your goods. Handling them with care and attention while being fully insured for damage and loss is highly desirable.

Employing staff

With your business expansion, you are going to require help in the form of employees. All employees should be trained to the standards that you find acceptable once they enter your business. Taking time to do this will help with their expertise, knowledge, and their skill base, as well as ensure congruency across your business.

In order to achieve high employee retention numbers, you will need to work on keeping the morale around your business high and your workers happy. It is far easier to do this with a small business than with a large one due to the personal relationships that you will have with each member of your staff.

However, if you start in the right way by thanking your workers for their efforts and praising them when it is due, and even presenting them with gifts at certain times of the year as a reward for staying loyal and with your business, then there is no reason why you cannot continue as your business grows.

Morale is very important in a business as it affects and influences how your employees work, their output rates and the quality of their output, and their loyalty, as well as how your business is perceived both inside your company and to customers, potential and otherwise.

Final thoughts

So, as you can see, there is an opportunity on every level to start your own eCommerce business. With help from dedicated selling platforms and experts providing a service, your paying hobby or dream career can be brought to life and taken to whatever heights you care to aspire to.